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TRANSCRIPT: On Press Call, Schumer Discusses The Release Of New Senate Report Showing Disproportionate Impact Of The Coronavirus Pandemic On Communities Of Color

Brooklyn, N.Y. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today held a press call with Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) to release a report on how COVID-19 disproportionately affects minority communities. You can find the report here. Below is a transcript of his remarks:

I want to thank my colleagues, Sen. Stabenow, Senator Harris and Senator Booker for being on the call as well. And I thank Debbie and the DPCC who put together a really important report. So I hope everyone on the phone is staying healthy, you and your loved ones and your friends, and staying safe during this difficult time.

We all know that the coronavirus pandemic takes a terrible toll on American families; there’s enormous suffering, there are heartbreaking losses of life every day in New York, I hear of a new one, more than once a day of people who have passed because of the coronavirus. The health and then the economic impacts have been overwhelming, but they have been particularly overwhelming for communities of color.

On April 17th, the CDC released preliminary data that shows 30% of COVID-19 patients are African American, whereas African Americans make up only 13% of the whole population.

In addition, majority African American counties have three times the rate of COVID-19 infection, this is even more awful, six times the rate of death as majority non-minority counties.

In my home state of New York, which has been epicenter of the COVID-19, it affects all people of color. Latinos, even though they are only 29% of the population, have the highest percentage number of deaths at 34% and the numbers are disproportionate for African Americans as well.

So these statistics are heartbreaking. We Senate Democrats are committed to ensuring that communities of color are provided the support they need to be both healthy and economically stable, not only now but on into the future. We must provide adequate support and protections for the heroic frontline workers of color and their families, and there are so many in New York who are immigrants and people of color who are working so hard. I spoke to a group of black nurses last night, the New York Black Nurses Association, and they are amazing, just dedicated and strong, and risking their lives for helping others, many of them people who they don’t know.

So, they are the heroes of this crisis and we are so grateful to them. They have to be supported and protected. Currently, as you know, people of color are more likely to be uninsured, are more likely to have a pre-existing condition, are more likely to suffer greater exposure to air pollution and asthma, while being less likely to have the ability to work from home and they are getting hit the hardest by growing levels of poverty as layoffs and furloughs continue to increase. And, you know, this should not surprise people – because for far too long communities of color have had to endure deep structural inequalities and discrimination, bigotry. Much of this is related to health care and economic stability that have resulted in the racial disparities we’re now seeing.

This pandemic has heightened these disparities in a deadly fashion. So that is why we Democrats have worked really hard. We just allocated $60 billion in the new Paycheck Protection Program to community lenders to ensure the assistance reaches minority-owned businesses, giving special preference to CDFIs and NDIs, minority banking institutions.

We’ve expanded unemployment insurance and secured for our frontline workers emergency paid sick leave, family leave, and funding for child care development.

We are supporting American Indians and Alaskan Natives by increasing funding to the Indian Health Service, Native American Housing Programs, and Bureau of Indian Education.

And we secured $25 billion for nationwide testing—$11 billion to the states for contact tracing and administering the tests, but remainder to the federal government to come up with a plan. An actual real plan. A regime to make sure we have enough testing because no one is going to get back to work unless we do. And as we said, the minority communities have been more affected economically. The longer we stay out of work, the longer we have to stay at home.

We have a lot more to do to ensure that communities of color have the support and protections they need. And let me say as the Minority Leader, one of the things our caucus intends to do is first work on the immediate problems which we have now, but look at the magnifying glass that this awful COVID crisis has shined or revealed that the structural disparities that must be permanently dealt with. Not just during the COVID crisis, but permanently dealt with, so when, God forbid, there’s another crisis like this, we don’t have the racial disparities we have now. And the best thing we can do is examine why there’s such poor health care, poor economic opportunities for people of color, and permanently deal with those issues as a way of trying to make something good come out of this awful, awful crisis.

Leader McConnell has decided to convene the Senate next week, and our first job is going to be focusing on how to get us back to better health and a better economy. We believe that he should be holding oversight hearings on the COVID-19 crisis, NOT putting in right-wing judges, cronies of his who are not even said to be qualified by the ABA.

Confirming more right-wing judges and protecting big businesses will not help people of color, will not help average Americans. We must go back to focusing on the real issues when the Senate returns.